24.05.2014 - 29.05.2014 24 °C
Neither of us were relishing the thought of heading back to Quito, but we had little choice to stay there as our flight back from the Galapagos landed late afternoon.
So we resigned ourselves to another night in the noisy new part of town. This time it was a Saturday and the area had a better, more upbeat feel to it. There was a buzz, lots of people milling around and a small market in the square. The downside was it meant the following day was a Sunday when virtually everything closes up. Therefore our plan to make a quick exit from the city the next day was scuppered, meaning we spent two more nights in Quito.
However, it did mean we were able to get to the absolutely fascinating Capilla del Hombre (Chapel of Man) and Guayasamín's house and museum.
I've never experienced the feeling of a painting making me want to cry before, but Oswaldo Guayasamín's work was extremely evocative. He is Ecuador's most famous artist, who died in 1999 aged 79. His large-scale paintings depict the horrors of war crimes, torture, enslavement and general misery throughout the history of man. The images portray the Jewish holocaust and European cruelty, the mistreatment of people in Bolivian silver mines, the death of his good friend and poet Pablo Neruda under Pinochet's rule, starvation in Africa and Asia's torrid history.
Now, I'll admit, having just described his work, it doesn't much sound like a fun day out. But they conveyed so much pain and suffering, it was hard not to be moved by what was on show. Amongst the paintings were also scenes of human tenderness and protection, such as the love between mother and child, and the local landscape.
His style was influenced by cubism and surrealism but he had a very distinct style of his own. Human hands and haunted eyes are a particularly prominent feature and were quite mesmerising. We ended up buying three of his prints which Ant is now lovingly storing in his rucksack.
Photos weren't allowed in the gallery so these are taken from billboard posters displayed outside. If you're interested in seeing more of his work, check out this link.
We did capture this writing inside which translates to:
“I cried because I did not have shoes until I saw a child that did not have feet”
Mindo Cloud Forest
Two hours from Quito, and at a lower elevation, is Mindo, and it couldn't be further removed from the sprawling mass of the city.
It was a nice feeling to leave Quito behind. We watched the urbanisation begin to disappear and the views were replaced with deep cut valleys and endless tree-clad hills.
Our wood panelled room with a cosy balcony overlooking the river was a welcome retreat. After a wander around the small town and booking a few tours, we relaxed with a beer whilst watching hummingbirds feed.
One of the main attractions in Mindo is bird watching. The cloud forests boast around 400 different species of birds, including toucans, birds of prey, vultures, woodpeckers and a host of other colourful birds.
We're by no means avid 'twitchers' but enjoy all manner of wildlife, so we booked ourselves on an early morning birdwatching tour at 6am! The walk took us through the outskirts of the town, where the rural life was very apparent. Our guide was excellent at spotting birds from miles away. Considering how far away some of them were, we got some reasonably good results from taking pics through the telescope.
The highlight was seeing three different species of toucan - stunning birds and the archetypal image of forest life in Ecuador.
The remainder of our stay was chilled and centred around the wildlife. We went to an evening 'frog concert' (bom bom bom, aye-ee-ah) to see and hear lots of different species, and a butterfly farm.
We watched this one emerge from its pupa - amazing!
We also did a night walk in the forest. I'm not a huge lover of bugs, especially flying ones, so walking around an Ecuadorian forest with a light attached to my head probably wasn't one of my finest decisions. Large moths kept flying into my face as we helpfully provided the brightest light around for miles...
The walk's focus was on nocturnal mammals but for the first time since the guide has been doing the walks, no mammals showed. We did see some hideous looking spiders, some insects and a few frogs but that was it. Strangely enough our guide came from Leeds, he had a very monotone Yorkshire accent (a bored Sean Bean) and all-in-all the walk was a bit of a disappointment.
A scorpion spider... shudder
One of the most enjoyable things we did was a chocolate tour which was much more interesting than we were expecting. We learnt about the history of chocolate making and the various processes involved, with the all important tastings at the end. Of course Ecuador is a world-famous producer of cacao, and the end product emphasis here is on dark chocolate. It's bloody good!
Cocoa beans drying
One of the flavourings